Saturday, March 23, 2024

Trina Prufer to STRS Board: Denying the truth in the statute does not absolve STRS of its responsibility; it only exacerbates the belief that STRS leadership is untrustworthy, and the system does not work for teachers.

Trina Prufer's Public Statement to the STRS Board

March 21, 2024 
Misinformation or Disinformation? 
Conflating an Automatic Fixed-rate Cola with an Ad Hoc Cola 
A Bad Faith interpretation of ORC 3307.42 (2008 version) 
My name is Trina Prufer. I retired in 2003 as a school psychologist after 30 years of public service. My husband was also a member of STRS and passed away in 2007, prior to retirement, in his 40th year of college teaching. 
My intent is to correct the re-writing of cola history by STRS leadership and staff, who proclaim the annual cola can legally be diminished or eliminated, ostensibly because the cola had changed in the past. 
On 10/3/23 at a Town Hall meeting in Parma, during the public Q and A, I asked the STRS Executive Director ( Bill Neville) the following question: 
What is the meaning of “Actual Benefits will be paid in accordance with STRS Law in Effect at the time of Your Retirement? 
He stated quite emphatically that the 3% cola was never considered a permanent part of the benefit as it had changed numerous times in the history of STRS. He insisted the statement meant only the BASE benefit. 
After the meeting I talked with the STRS Executive Coordinator (Wendi Ballard), discussing my displeasure at not receiving the cola assured in the benefit plan. She explained that because the specific word “guaranteed” was not in the plan, the cola could not be counted on. When I asked why there were no qualifiers or any mention or the cola not being permanent, the answer was “well, perhaps there should have been”. 
So, what does the ORC actually say regarding benefits being paid according to STRS Law at the time of retirement? 
ORC 3307.42 (2008 version) is entitled “Acquiring a Vested Right in a Pension When Granted" 
The granting of any person of an allowance, annuity or pension as defined in section 3307.50 of the Revised code…. VESTS a right in such person…. to receive the allowance, annuity, pension, or benefit at the rate fixed at the time of granting the allowance, annuity, pension or benefit. It should be noted that the word Vested means a benefit that cannot be withdrawn retroactively. 
Additionally, there is a vast difference between an automatic cola and an ad hoc cola. An Ad hoc cola has conditions or qualifiers; an automatic cola does not and is typically fixed. Had the cola been ad hoc, STRS would have had the discretion to adjust the cola, but also would have had the obligation to spell out in no uncertain terms the specific details for adjusting the cola. A lie of omission is still a lie. 
Telling members the cola was NEVER an obligation falls into the realm of Bad Faith because STRS leadership has always known the meaning of the statute. What happened put pre-2012 retirees in harm’s way as they were assured of inflation protection, had this security ripped away in retirement, and were left without the years of investing needed to make up the difference. Denying the truth in the statute does not absolve STRS of its responsibility; it only exacerbates the belief that STRS leadership is untrustworthy, and the system does not work for teachers.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Robin Beebe to STRS Board: GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY!!!! HOLY TOLEDO!!! What is wrong with this picture????

 Robin Beebe's speech to STRS Board

March 21, 2024 
My name is Robin Beebe. Retired teacher of mainly 4th Graders and Kindergarteners. 35 years. Fremont City Schools and Perrysburg Schools. 
I almost did not get up here to speak today as I am basically STUNNED and SPEECHLESS due to the CRAZINESS that is going on here at STRS!!! If you are not a reform-minded STRS Board Member, you should hang your head in shame as it is SHAMEFUL what you are perpetrating on retired and active teachers in Ohio. GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY!!!! HOLY TOLEDO!!! What is wrong with this picture????
However, upon further reflection… I am before you….
Speaking of “pictures”, the Academy Award Oscars were just held last week.Well, I am here to announce the “STRS Oscar Awards of Shame” awarded by famous movies.
* To the “3 Minutes Allotted Public Comments with the 1 Minute Warning Interruption” goes the Close Encounters of the Third Kind award.(Note: Hold up 1, 2, 3 fingers for emphasis.)
* To the “Over Abundance of Actuarial Tables” goes the Primal Fear award and the Apocalypse Now award.
* To all the “Bonuses, i.e., PBI – Performance Based Incentives” goes the Fistful of Dollars award.
* To the “14% Contribution Rate for Active Teachers” goes the Mamma Mia! award.
* To the “Communications Department” goes the Lost in Translation award.
* To the “Private Equity Hedge Funds” goes the The Wolf of Wall Street award.
* To the “Divisive Glass Wall” goes the Rear Window award. 
* To the Governor’s Revolving Door of Replacement STRS Board Appointees” goes the Game of Thrones award.
* To the “Heated Sidewalks” goes the Some Like It Hot award.
* To the “INTEGRITY Statue” goes The Last of the Mohicans award.
* To the “Investment Staff” (it’s a tie) goes The Raiders of the Lost Ark award and the Catch Me if You Can award.
* To the “No COLA, No COLA, No COLA, No COLA, etc.” goes
the Ground Hog Day award.
* To the “Out of State STRS Real Estate Holdings” goes The Money Pit award.
* To the “Town Hall Dog and Pony Show Meetings” goes the Pulp Fiction award.

* To the “Series of Retirees You Should Know Videos” goes the La La Land award.
* To the “Half Billion Dollar Panda Loss” goes the Gone with the Wind award.
* And last, but not least, to “Mr. Wade Steen” goes the Waiting for Godot award.

Suzanne Laird's "Cookie Speech" to the STRS Board

Suzanne Laird's speech to STRS Board

March 21, 2024
Good Morning, Members of My Board: 
How much do you suppose a cookie is worth?In February of 2023, just days after the Board meeting, I received a package at my home containing a smashed cookie and a letter, accusing me of attempting to “influence business” with STRS. The letter was signed by a Mr. Fred Williams, and you may recall I mentioned last month that I had been attempting to contact Mr. Williams regarding this letter for an entire year.Turns out, the letter was written by one of your legal staff and was signed, under duress, by Mr. Williams. Turns out, Mr. Williams is simply a nice guy , manipulated by grossly over-paid lawyers to try to intimidate me. 
I did a terrible thing, you see. I am guilty of handing out cookies to the folks in this building who prepare your free lunches, clean your restrooms, guard your fancy offices.I assume they are fancy; I’ve not actually seen them, since movement around OUR building is so restricted. Every school building in which I have ever taught contained confidential information, yet we were able to keep that information safe and secure while allowing students, parents and guests to freely explore our schools. 
Apparently, there is a rule about accepting a free cookie, but no rule about accepting hundred thousand dollar raises or three hundred thousand dollar bonuses…… 
Doesn’t the legal department have anything better to do with their time and my money than to harass retirees?
Attempting to pit us against the regular employees — by that I mean those who earn what an average Ohio teacher earns — will not deter us. We do not begrudge them, and from what I’ve observed, some employees here agree with us. They see the waste, they see the hypocrisy, and I bet they’ve seen some temper tantrums. 
Forget quibbling over a cookie.
I want to know when you’re going to freeze the salaries.
I want to know when you’re going to suspend the bonuses.
When you’re going to reduce the actives’ years of service.
And when you’re going to restore the COLA.

Thursday, March 21, 2024


Cathy Steinhauser's speech to STRS Board

March 21, 2024 

Cathy Steinhauser – 35 yrs., satellite teacher of Family & Consumer Sciences through Pickaway/Ross CTC for Circleville City Schools.

I am going to begin by having my assistant, Suzanne, again pass out four short articles, 3 written by Edward Siedle-top forensic auditor in the U.S.A. : Ohio Teachers State Pension Far More Secretive Than CIA (Feb. 8, 2024),SEC Whistleblower Complaint Files Against Ohio Teachers State Pension (March 1, 2024) and “Minnesota Teachers Fundraise Forensic Audit of State Pension System” (March 11, 2024), a link to a YouTube video The Hidden Truths About Cash Apps and Pension Systems interviewing Ed and his information about pensions, and a fourth article in the Toledo Blade “Ohioans Deserve Better From Columbus” (March 5, 2024) by Brent Larkin about Ohioan’s thoughts about our Ohio state political system. These will give you more insight about our STRS pension system. It shouldn’t take you long to read these.

Next, I’m here to remind you about what a fiduciary is until the entire STRS Board starts to put teachers first:

FIDUCIARY - “A person (you all) who acts on behalf of another person or persons (the teachers), putting their client’s interests (teachers' interests) ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary requires being bound both LEGALLY (by the law) AND ETHICALLY (using morals/values) to act in others' best interests.”

It is expected that every single person that works here from the senior staff all the way down to the newbies should have the teacher’s best interests in mind AT ALL TIMES!! TEACHERS. ARE. YOUR. PRIORITY!!

I attended the STRS Chillicothe Town Hall meeting at the Public Library on February 27, 2024. The meeting was limited to the first 60 who responded and I’m wondering how many invites you emailed out. The room held 100 and 75 showed up but only 60 could attend? I’m glad that those “15” over the limit were not turned away at the door! I had envisioned my pensioner guest, who wasn’t registered, having an issue attending but I was surprised that she was welcomed. Many pensioners have wondered what the criteria are that select some members over others when all teachers in the area of the Town Hall meetings should be invited. If space is an issue, I’m sure OU-C would have been happy to accommodate. 

I was also happy to discover a fellow pensioner/hero and former STRS board member sat behind me the entire meeting, Dr. Dennis Leone. Dr. Leone asked about the number of current employees and the acting executive director answered that there were about 500 which is down 250 since 2022. Dr. Leone told me that from 1996-2002 the employees increased from 414 to 725! Was there a hiring frenzy after Dr. Leone left? STRS still needs to downsize its number of employees and downsize the salaries…yet we see on the website that they’re looking to hire 16 people. The acting executive director said at the town hall mtg, “We are incredibly conscious around spending” but somehow that doesn’t resonate well with us when you’re in a hiring frenzy and the “Miscellaneous” category in the financial budget isn’t itemized for pensioners to see what you’re purchasing, it looks suspicious, like you’re hiding information.


More reasons to vote for Michelle Flanigan

From an active teacher (on Facebook)

March 21, 2024 
I’m the president of my local teachers’ union. Michelle Flanigan was gracious enough to speak at our March meeting last night.
I would like to say, Michelle DAndrea Flanigan is an AMAZING educator! She has immersed herself in learning everything she can about OUR retirement system. I had veteran teachers at my meeting last night that were beyond thankful that she broke so many facets of our retirement down into conversation we all understood.
Comments from others: 
This is such a great endorsement! Yes, Michelle is the best candidate, hands-down. Thank you for helping so much with our reform cause. 
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Michelle didn’t shy away from any questions either! It was very informative!! Thank you for your time!!! 
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Hello to those eligible to vote this election!!!!
Active and those on disability who are eligible to vote please do not give up on our reform members now!!! We are so close to change and we cannot do this if you give up. You have to vote for Michelle DAndrea Flanigan!! Don’t throw those ballots away because you are feeling defeated by today’s voting. 
This eIection is not about feelings. I wholeheartedly believe the reform members are working for us but their hands are tied until they are a majority. There is obviously soooo much more we are not privy to at this point that they can’t talk about, but I absolutely believe they will not abandon us. I hope and pray that even though you are discouraged, do not give up on them now! Don’t you think that is what the nonreform board people want? Do NOT let them win by not voting!!! Let’s get through this vote together people!!! 
We are a solid force to be reckoned with and cannot let anything set us back at this final hour. Together we are strong and we have fought tooooo long to throw in the towel now. Now is the time to step up to the plate and help the team hit a homerun! I know I personally am ramping up my efforts to inform everyone I can reach to vote for Michelle! I hope you do the same. Let’s post those efforts on this page to encourage others across the state to get the word out! I’m in Cuyahoga county specifically CMSD. What district or county can you help get the word out?
Thanks for listening to my Pep Ted talk!  
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Amen Amen Amen. What a nice way to remind every STRS member to be sure to vote when the ballots arrive in your mailbox. Now is the time for us reform-minded members to stand up a take control of our pension.
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She is truly a class act! NOT ONCE did she speak ill will regarding anyone. Her meeting with us did not include one political shadow. She stuck to facts that educated us, and truly proved that she has a forward vision to help both active and retired teachers ALL THE SAME! 
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Our members were SO thankful to have her join us. The Brunswick teachers are so lucky to have such an educated, selfless human on their staff, willing to fight for every single one of them! 
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I STRONGLY recommend anyone in a leadership role with your union to reach out to Michelle and see if you can snag her for a quick meeting! You will not regret it!
My two cents: THIS GAL ROCKS! Vote for Michelle!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

STRS Investment staff compensation for FY 2023: They can lose billions (your money) and still make out like bandits!


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Messages from ORTA president Dean Dennis and Executive Director Robin Rayfield

Excerpts from the ORTA Newsletter

March 19, 2024 
From Dean Dennis 
Other matters of interest are that on March 26, there will be what hopefully will be final ruling on whether Wade Steen will be reseated to the STRS Board. If you have been following the case, Wade Steen was improperly removed by Governor DeWine right before last year’s STRS election results were to be announced. By removing Wade Steen, the Governor allowed the status quo STRS Board practices to remain in place. ORTA immediately got involved in
this miscarriage of justice and raised monies to support Wade Steen. At this point in time, 10 months later, there has received a favorable ruling from the magistrate assigned to the case. On March 26, the magistrate’s decision will go before a panel of three judges for a final ruling. We are optimistic the three judges in the 10 th District Court of Appeals will support the magistrate’s findings. 
Last month I stated that, protecting our pension and advocating for secure benefits for members also necessitates electing Board members who are willing to work towards an accountable, transparent and efficient pension system. In early April ballots will go out to fill an active seat on the STRS board. Only active teachers will be able to vote. Please be aware of the importance of this election and do whatever you can do make sure this active seat is filled by our endorsed candidate Michelle Flanigan. ORTA thoroughly vetted Michelle Flanigan in our endorsement process. Michelle Flanigan has also been endorsed by OFT, the AAUP, the STRS Member Only Forum and the STRS Watchdogs. Michelle will fight to restore benefits that have been taken away, including making sure retirees have inflation protection. She will do so in a responsible manner. Michelle has worked as a Government, Economics and Financial Literacy teacher at Brunswick City Schools for the past 26 years. She worked as a financial analyst at American Greetings prior to becoming a teacher. Let’s get out the word to all active teachers to vote for Michelle. 
From Robin Rayfield 
The STRS Board meeting was held on Feb. 14 and 15, 2024: On Wednesday, the 14th, the meeting got off to a rocky start. Hunt and Herrington were not present, so the meeting was delayed until the status quo board members had a majority. After starting an hour late, there were motions made by reform members that were ruled out of order by board chair Price. 
Members on both sides of the argument invoked Robert’s Rules, both claiming that their perspective was the correct perspective. After some arguing the status quo members had a majority with Herrington joining the meeting via zoom. 
The board went into executive session that lasted about 6 hours. After executive session the board reconvened and passed motions that; kept Lynn Hoover as the acting executive director through May 17, extended Bill Neville’s paid administrative leave through May 17, and provided for ‘professional development’ for Bill Neville. The consultant for professional development for Neville will be hired at the March board meeting. 
On Thursday, the meeting continued with presentations by the investment staff and financial staff. Public participation included Dean Dennis and Robin Rayfield from ORTA offering comments supporting reform at STRS. The meeting concluded in the late afternoon with routine matters. 
The executive summary of the investigation into Bill Neville’s behavior at STRS has been provided to the STRS board. It has been reported in the media that the investigation found no clear evidence to support that Neville did anything illegal. What appears clear is that absent illegal behavior, the board is convinced that Neville’s behavior casts doubt on his ability to lead STRS at this time. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Perhaps Mr. Neville will be reinstated, or he will move on from STRS. 
The February meeting also saw a new STRS board member seated in Wade Steen’s seat. Despite having a 10th circuit magistrate’s ruling that Governor DeWine lacked authority to replace Steen, DeWine placed Brian Perera on the board after his first replacement (Brent Bishop) abruptly resigned. Mr. Steen is still fighting to regain his rightful place on the STRS board. All parties are waiting on the 10th circuit to approve the magistrate’s ruling to reseat Wade Steen. 
What is hard to understand is why DeWine is going to such lengths to protect the status quo board majority when the membership has voted for change. Certainly, there is something going on here that does not add up. We do know that Wall St. collects huge fees from the investments STRS pays to Wall St. firms, and we know that Wall St., in turn, pays vast amounts to politicians in Ohio. Is there a connection between these payments and DeWine’s actions? I also can report that Mr. Bishop, who originally replaced Wade Steen filed a response objecting to the magistrate’s decision that Wade was wrongfully replaced by DeWine. 
He filed his objections (February 19th); however, he made no new legal arguments in his objection. Wade’s attorney remains confident that the legal basis for the decision made by the magistrate remains sound. This is an attempt to delay Wade’s return, a.k.a. a stalling tactic. The 10th circuit has scheduled a hearing on March 26th to hear the objections to the magistrate’s decision. It is open to the public and will be held at 10:45 in courtroom 23B. We remain optimistic that the judges will approve the magistrate’s decision within the next few weeks.
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Note: The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26 at 10:45 am in Courtroom 23B, Franklin County Government Center, 373 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio. If you are unable to attend in person, you can click here to listen to the oral arguments on YouTube. Click on "Live" to hear the oral arguments.
Parking is available in the 34 East Fulton Street Parking Garage.

Support for Wade Steen's rightful reinstatement to the STRS Board

Wade, we (thousands of active and retired teachers) have your back more than ever, especially come March 26, 2024. (See above or below post with comments by Dean Dennis and Robin Rayfield.) 

ORTA News Alert

March 18, 2024

We hope you will join ORTA President Dean Dennis and Executive Director Dr. Robin Rayfield on March 26 in Columbus to support soon-to-be-reinstated STRS board member Wade Steen. 

As has been widely reported, last month an Ohio court held that pro-teacher board member Wade Steen should be reinstated to the STRS board. The Governor's office appealed the decision. 

The court scheduled oral arguments for the appeal and ORTA is encouraging active and retired teachers to attend in support of Mr. Steen. 

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26 at 10:45am in Courtroom 23B, Franklin County Government Center, 373 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio. If you are unable to attend in person, you can click here to listen to the oral arguments on YouTube. Click on "Live" to hear the oral arguments.

Parking is available in the 34 East Fulton Street Parking Garage

As one Ohio newspaper editorialized, Wade is "the first and most ardent voice for investment management reform in the entire state pension system." 

In his more than seven years on the STRS board, Wade Steen has been an advocate for Ohio educators by fighting for transparency, accountability and change. He’s uncovered millions in hidden fees paid to Wall Street hedge funds and fought against unearned “performance” bonuses for STRS staff. 

STRS is broken. Help us fight back by supporting board members like Wade Steen who are trying to fix it.

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